Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Ghost of Grief

Wow. I have been getting such in depth juicy comments to these posts. I am learning so much from my readers. Thank all of you for your comments! I love any and all comments.

Last night, when a patient of mine died, his wife who had been at the bedside was overcome with her grief. She had been crying on and off at his bedside all evening. She called me into the room when she thought he'd stopped breathing. She started sobbing audibly when I told her that I heard no heart nor lung sounds. Her family arrived shortly thereafter and began to comfort her. I left to ask the doctor to come to the floor to officially pronounce the death. When I came back into the room, the wife was losing consciousness. I ran towards her and her friend and I eased her onto the ground, where she remained for the next five minutes. She would not respond to verbal stimuli and would barely open her eyes to a sternal rub (the standby when you aren't able to arouse someone). When she was able to talk again, she immediately asked, "How is he?" I was hesitant to tell her, seeing how she'd responded when she first heard the news. I calmly filled my voice with as much sympathy as I could bring into it and told her, "I'm so sorry. He's gone." She immediately began wailing and moaning again. She then reported chest pain and had to be sent down to the emergency room without having said her final goodbye's to her husband.

Grief is powerful. I have a different patient in that same room tonight. In a comment, Mari had stated that she felt like "ghosts" of experiences and emotions lingered in places, but that these "ghosts" were somehow different from souls or spirit kind of ghosts. For me, my body definitely felt a reaction to being in that room again. Though I have witnessed numerous people dying in that same room, this ghost of grief definitely feels specific to my own personal feelings about yesterday's experience. The new patient resting in that room doesn't seem to be aware of anything unusual. Though, in the room next door, where many patients have also died, we have had at least a few reports of people feeling that the room was haunted somehow. Interesting to ponder.


Jennynyc said...

The surviving family members are lucky to have you at such a crucial time. We all know that even in situations that are not life or death yet none-the-less upsetting, the messenger makes a difference (his or her tone, sense of caring, ability to be present, etc.).

Cori said...

Keep up the good work!